Big Kmart officially arrives in Austin

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 22, 1999

It’s not the Kmart anymore.

Friday, October 22, 1999

It’s not the Kmart anymore.

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It’s the Big Kmart.

Austin’s link in the Kmart Corporation’s chain of stores nationwide celebrated a $600,000 renovation today.

A sea of red-coated employees and managers joined local dignitaries in the grand reopening ceremonies.

Store No. 3578 still has the same 96,000 square feet it had before the renovation. It just seems bigger and brighter with the changes.

Dan Hewitt, the store’s general manager, praised the store employees for helping to push the project toward completion ahead of schedule. "You did all the work, I did all the worrying," Hewitt said.

The new Big Kmart has a "store within the store" in the form of a large food pantry located almost in the center of the store in Kmart Plaza off 18th Ave. NW near the U.S. Highway 218 intersection.

Seven aisles of food items each 65 feet long now make the store a legitimate "one-stop shopping center" for consumers.

Austin Kmart store retirees were special guests at this morning’s ceremonies and the store’s employee of the year, Susan Ryks, a 15-year veteran, was also recognized.

The store’s general manager also presented checks for $250 each to Austin High School and the Salvation Army Austin Corps. In addition to the money, AHS received five television monitors and the Salvation Army will benefit from a food drive during the store’s grand reopening celebration.

Keith Fleming, assistant AHS principal, expressed the school’s appreciation for Kmart’s generosity and said the television monitors will be a welcome addition to the school’s efforts to bring technology to the classroom.

Capt. Douglas Yech, officer in charge of the Salvation Army Austin Corps, said the money donated by the store will benefit the on-going efforts to collect food items for the annual distribution of Thanksgiving food baskets to the needy.

State Senator Pat Piper (D-Austin) congratulated the store’s employees and management on the renovation.

Austin Mayor Bonnie Rietz added her congratulations and called the business "one of the leaders in giving."

Eric Brown, a Hormel Foods Corporation executive, told how the vendor partner agreement between the Austin-based meat and food processor and marketer and Kmart Corporation has grown.

The agreement began 15 years ago, when Kmart first introduced microwave foods. In 1991, Kmart added Hormel Foods canned food items and in 1992, Dinty Moore American Classics were added.

Today, Kmart Corporation is one of the top 10 Hormel Foods accounts in the world, according to Brown, who praised the business partnership for both.

Rochester Kmart store manger George Meyer extended his congratulations to Hewitt and the Austin store’s employees and then Hewitt exhibited the kind of customer service the store enjoys.

Esther Dahlback, a store "regular" as a weekly shopper, was presented with a gift certificate for her loyalty.

Then, Hewitt extended more praise to the store employees. "I’m proud of you. We have a great store and a great group of people," he said.

Then, the store manager invited Senator Piper and Mayor Rietz to hold a bright red — of course — ribbon and his daughter, Danielle and her friend, Jenna Bustad, snipped the symbolic ribbon and the grand reopening was official.